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Gender Identity Disorder (GID)
As early as the age of four (Vitale, 1996), some children begin to realize that the gender their body tells them they are, and the gender their mind tells them they are don't correspond. The sense of gender and the anatomical sex of a person mature at different times and different regions of the body (Vitale, 1997b). Sometimes the gendermap, the template within the mind of a person that codes for masculinity, femininity and androgyny doesnâ€™t coincide with the body of the individual (Vitale, 1997a). This condition is commonly referred to as Gender Identity Disorder (GID). GID is characterized by unrelenting confusion or discomfort of one's own gender.
The terms "sex" and "gender" are often used interchangeably, and this generally causes confusion. The term "sex" will refer to one's genitalia, and "gender" will refer to the individual's gendermap of being masculine, feminine, or somewhere in the middle (Vitale, 1996).
Some traits for Gender Identity Disorder are strong desire to be the other gender, frequent living or being treated as the other gender, or the feeling that one has the reactions and emotions as the other gender would. Another characteristic is persistent discomfort with their birth gender. Some individuals believe that they were born the wrong sex (Hammond & Wilson, 1996). As one of my friends, "Wil" sadly admits, "I was born wrong."
Gender Identity Disorder begins to affect the individual in early childhood ("Gender Identity", 1999). If, by adolescence, a person isn't certain about their gender identity, most likely they never will be. A person's sense of gender in unchangeable over that individual's lifetime once it is established (Vitale, 1997a). Psychotherapy treatment may help a person be able to live with the sex they were born with. Sex reassignment is available for a few cases where therapy doesn't end a person's desire for sex reassignment ("Gender Identity", 1999).
Sex reassignment is not for everybody. Individuals must successfully complete a "real life test" where they live a year as their desired sex before the procedure will be performed (Vitale, 1997b). Hormone treatment is begun after the completed trial period. Females receive androgens, a male hormone, and males receive estrogen and/or antiandrogens. The surgical procedures include, for male patients, the removal of the penis and testes, and a neovagina is created. Corrective plastic surgery of the larynx and removal of body hair is also performed. Female patients undergo a mastectomy and a hysterectomy, and in some instances, phalloplasty is performed as well, in addition to removal of the ovaries ("Gender Identity," 1999).
As stated earlier, sex reassignment surgery is not for everyone and should not be started too soon. In some cases, after the psychotherapy treatment, individuals decide to live homosexual and sometimes even heterosexual lives according to their born sex. It's not just homosexuals who feel that they were born the wrong sex. The patient usually must be at last eighteen years of age before treatment begins ("Gender Identity", 1999), although sometimes hormones are administered at adolescents. Less than 2% of male-to-female transsexuals had any regrets about their sex reassignment, and less than 1% of female-to-males had any regrets (Vitale, 1997b).
There are some who believe that the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder is merely a way of "curing" homosexuality. GID is a way for the parents of homosexual children and their doctors to cope with the fact that their child is homosexual. Society views homosexuality as "wrong" and "immoral". The treatment, back in the 1950's for the "little gay boys" (Pela, 1997) was torture, and treatment today is the still same. Homosexuality was replaced by GID as a mental disorder when it was removed from the books in 1973 (Pela, 1997). Many fear being discovered, as they will be ridiculed and labeled sick, uncaring, and even be abandoned be their loved ones (Vitale, 1997a).
There are some social and support groups in various cities and countries to help individuals come to term with their gender. Nashville has one such group, the Tennessee Vals. It is a confidential organization for transgendered individuals, their friends, families, and loved ones. It has a secure and anonymous meeting place, for the protection and safety of the members. Members are comfortable to come dressed as they wish, and any way they appear is accepted with the group (Tennessee Vals, 2000).
Gender Identity Disorder is very real. A few friends of mine are affected by it. Some are currently undergoing hormone treatments and receiving silicone injections to help them develop breasts and a more feminine figure. One has gotten a name change and no longer goes by her "boy name" at all, and no one even knows what it is. One friend lives as a male while at work, but in her social life, she lives as a female. Some "transies" live as homosexual males who just like to "play dress-up" every now and then at clubs or parties. Some merely play out their trans-gender roles by regularly dressing and performing as drag queens. Although all my friends handle their gender confusion differently, they all have one thing in common, they are trying to find themselves.
Gender Identity Disorder in Adolescence: Outcomes of Psychotherapy. (Summer 1999). v34 i134 p305. Libra Publishers, Inc.
Hammond, Barbara E. Ph.D. , & Wilson, Katherine K. (1996) Association for Women in Psychology. [On-Line] Available: http://www.transgender.org/tg/gic/awptext.html.
Pela, Robert L. (1997, Nov 11). Boys in the dollhouse and girls with toy trucks. n746 p55(5). Liberations Publications, Inc.
Tennessee Vals Homepage. (2000, April 12) Transgender Social and Support Group. [On-Line]. Available: http://www.transgender.org/tvals/index.html.
Vitale, Anne Ph.D. (1997a, April 2). Notes on Gender Transition: Gender Identity Disorder: A Brief Description of the Problem. [On-Line]. Available: http://www.avitale.com/Gender_Identity_Disorder_.html.
Vitale, Anne Ph.D. (1997b, July 28). Notes on Gender Transition: Gender Dysphoria: Treatment Limits and Options. [On-Line]. Available: http://avitale.com/Treatment_Options.html.
Vitale, Anne Ph.D. (1996, July 22). Notes on Gender Transition: Implications of Being Gender Dysphoric. [On-Line] Available: http://www.avitale.com/Implications.html.